Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Handheld battery-operated microfluidic controller for precision measurements and lab-on-a-chip applications

Technology #2702

Lab-on-a-chip microfluidic devices are achieving significant prominence in medical and research fields, but their operation typically requires the use of computers and bulky fluidic instruments. This both adds to the cost of analysis and requires that it be performed in a laboratory setting. This technology is a microfluidic controller device that is handheld and battery operated. The device uses a closed fluid system and hydraulic pressure to close or open valves with great precision. In doing so, the device can precisely measure intake or output of fluid, and follow precise mixing procedures for lab-on-a-chip applications.

High precision measurements with versatile and compact design

While matching the accuracy attained with bulkier set-ups, this device both lowers cost and offers greater flexibility as to operating conditions. With this technology, complex microfluidic assays can be performed in real-time outside of the lab, such as at a patient’s bedside or in the field. Further, while the device is compact enough to be hand operated, it is also capable of automated, remote operation for use in isolated or difficult to reach measurement stations. The controller can dispense repeated bursts of a precise amount of fluid, useful for high throughput assays. Additionally, the device eliminates the need for bulky instrumentation through the use of a closed fluidic system. Hydraulic pressure is controlled with electromechanical devices, thus closing and opening valves with negligible time delay. Valves can be operated independently or concurrently to allow for complex microfluidic procedures.

Rigorous analytical testing of a prototype of the device demonstrated the high degree of temporal precision, with full closure trailing the corresponding voltage change by only 53.4 ms.

Lead Inventor:

Samuel Sia, Ph.D.


  • Controller for microfluidic devices (e.g. Lab-on-a-chip assays)
  • Portable medical analysis for point-of-care or field operation
  • Remote operation of microfluidic assays
  • Relatively cheap method for delivery of precise amounts of fluid
  • Fluid intake and output for high-throughput assays
  • Affordable for developing nations or other low-cost healthcare needs


  • Small design for handheld operation or facile integration into other devices
  • Battery operated and portable
  • Doesn’t require bulky controllers, gas tanks, or computers for operation
  • Compatible with a wide range of applications
  • Significantly cheaper than comparable options

Patent Information:

Patent Issued (US 9,188,243)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR 2702